Citizen Rick is keen for Kane
Published 1:33 pm Monday, May 7, 2018
Greetings, my fellow cinema-loving citizens of Winchester.
Our lives are filled with important dates of remembrance on a personal and national level.
These memorials of past special events commemorated each year are a fair trade between comedy and tragedy in the form of weddings, personal milestones or tragic events that stay with us forever and are pivotal to whom we are today.
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Today’s column celebrates that a year ago this month, The Winchester Sun gifted me with the rare opportunity to share a few minutes with you every other Friday to focus on a topic I love: film.
To mark this occasion, we shall explore a pivotal film in cinema which is also is celebrating its anniversary as “Citizen Kane” (1941) was released this week in New York.
I have referenced “Kane” briefly in earlier columns and still stick to my guns that this title should be in your top 10 essentials to view if you are a newcomer to our little Film 101 course.
“Citizen Kane” is the classic drama-mystery focused on newspaper/media tycoon, Charles Foster Kane, portrayed by Orson Welles.
The movie begins in an untraditional manner as Kane is dying on his bed and uttering a final statement that is an enigma to characters and viewers alike.
What does his last utterance as he sheds his mortal shell mean?
To find out, we are transported back in time to Kane’s youth and grow with him until his time of dying. We watch Kane grow from an ideological crusader on the path for truth and experience great failure, success and tragedy as he morphs into a power-hungry media tycoon.
Besides acting as the lead, Welles (then in his mid-20s) also directed, produced and co-wrote “Citizen Kane.”
Welles, known for his memorable work on stage and radio, was hailed a prodigy and offered a lucrative deal to join the ranks of the Hollywood elite.
Welles was given everything short of the keys to the filmmaking kingdom and secured in his contract total control of his film and final cut of the film to be released. At this time, the studios were being run on a contract for all personnel and being managed as an assembly line with a director being viewed as a production manager in a manufacturing plant rather than an artist.
Upon its release, “Kane” was not lauded as a masterpiece as it is today because then media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who the Kane character is strongly based on, railroaded Welles and the studio by cutting off advertising in his papers, strong-arming theater owners if they screened “Kane” with fear of it being damaging to Hearst’s character.
The truth always comes out in the end, and the truth was loud as “Citizen Kane” was nominated for nine Oscars, and won for Best Screenplay being awarded to Orson Welles and Herman J. Manckiewicz.
As years pass, “Citizen Kane” is noted as a benchmark all other good cinema strives to be. It is in full stock of powerful narrative, innovative cinematography and use of the now common non-linear structure, solid performances and a striking score.
“Citizen Kane” has become the topic of lengthy books, documentaries and courses as well helped inspire young up and coming filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and even independent B-Movie king Roger Corman.
Unfortunately, the young Welles made a perfect movie his first time out of the gate and never made another feature that would bring so much praise as timeless or important to cinema.
Take two hours this weekend or the next rainy day to partake in the delight of educating your eyes and mind to the joy which is “Citizen Kane.”
To the readers who take a few minutes on a Friday to read this column, I thank you for the past year and look forward to our future articles together.
Have a film-tastic day, Rosebud!
Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker and film/music historian. He is president of the Winchester-Clark County Film Society (facebook.com/WCCfilmsociety). Find more from Rick on Facebook at facebook.com/ricksrhetoric/ and online at theintestinalfortitude.com/category/reviews-editorials/ricks-rhetoric. He is on Twitter @rickbaldwin79 and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.